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Davos Attendees to Pollute 18,090 metric tonnes CO2 For The ‘Sustainable World’ Themed Conference

Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:30 PM
Laura Hoy
Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:30 PM
  • The unnecessary use of private planes to fly to the World Economic Forum will contribute to 18,090 metric tonnes of CO2.
  • Attendees say their biggest concerns are about sustainability and protecting the environment.
  • The increase in private jets at Davos furthers the summit’s reputation as an elitist event where the world’s ‘top polluters’ meet.

This week some of the world’s most powerful people are due to converge at the World Economic Forum in Davos  to discuss ways to save the planet in 2020.

The theme for Davos 2020 is Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World, with a focus on renewing the concept of stakeholder capitalism to overcome income inequality, societal division and the climate crisis.

Hopefully, the Swiss resort comes equipped with mirrors as the concerned global elite might want to start by re-evaluating their own impact. The event is expected to draw an incredible number of private jets, despite the fact that those attending named environmental concerns as the top 5 risks to be addressed at the meeting.

Climate Change Isn’t Enough to Fly Commercial

Against the backdrop of the devastating bushfires in Australia, world leaders agree that something must be done to protect the planet . In fact, this year’s theme at Davos is, “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World.” The incredible hypocrisy seems to be lost on Davos attendees, though. Private jet service PrivateFly.com  noted that some of those flying in on private jets will likely charter a helicopter  to travel between Zurich and Davos. Apparently climate change is important, but not quite pressing enough to persuade the super-rich to endure a sub-2 hour road trip. 

Davos summit, climate change
The life of the rich and famous comes at a cost to the planet| Source: Shutterstock

The influx of private planes, which PrivateFly says will double the average daily volume of flight traffic in the area, isn’t just a drop in the bucket. Studies show  that flying private increases the per-person CO2 emissions 40 times. Commercial per-person emissions  equate to roughly 118kg for a 3-hour flight. Private jets, on the other hand, may add up to 6,030kg of CO2 emissions  for the same duration.

That means the 1,500 private jets descending on Davos are adding a whopping 9,045,000kg of CO2 (estimating a 3-hour average flight.) If we include their return, we get a total of 18,090,000kg or 18,090 metric tonnes of CO2. This number could be conservative.

To put that into perspective, that’s enough CO2 to fly 76,652 people to Davos and back. The forum typically hosts around 3,000 people , including many who choose a more eco-friendly mode of transport.

Greta Thunberg Would Be Ashamed

Greta Thunberg, who has been working to pressure businesses and governments around the world to lower their impact on the environment is due to attend. Most recently she pointed to Australia’s coal mining industry as a drain on the environment, adding the practice to a list of demands the 17-year-old activist plans to deliver to Davos attendees next week. 

Greta Thunberg, Climate Change
Greta Thunberg hasn’t commented on Davos attendees’ use of private planes, but she’s sure to be disappointed | Image: AP Photo/Paul White

Thunberg is well-known for her many efforts to draw attention to climate change issues— one being air travel. Last year she traveled from the US to Spain by sailboat . She has yet to comment on the shocking number of private jets due in Davos.

Carbon Neutral at Davos

The Davos summit is often criticized for being elitist and its members usually draw some criticism for their own wasteful behavior. This year, the conference is planning to make itself fully carbon neutral by using offsets.

Davos World Economic Forum stock market
The World Economic Forum’s attempts to offset its attendees’ wasteful behavior won’t change the public’s opinion of the conference | Source: Shutterstock.com

While those measures are worthwhile, it’s worth asking why those measures can’t be taken in addition to cutting down on the number of private planes. The bottom line is that many of Davos’ attendees could fly commercial. Thunberg’s calls to shut down Australia’s coal mining practices resonate with the public because Greta herself has given up so much to campaign for the environment. Paying to offset wasteful behaviors doesn’t exactly evoke the same sentiment. If Davos attendees want the rest of the world to take their conference seriously, they might consider slumming it in first class to get there. 

Disclaimer: The calculations made in this article are based on a rough average to visualize a problem and may be incorrect. The real emissions could be higher or lower.